Ancient stone church survives Typhoon ‘Pablo’



STILL STANDING Most residents of Caraga town in Davao Oriental call it a miracle after the 128-year-old church of San Salvador del Mundo withstood the rampage of Typhoon “Pablo.” NICO ALCONABA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

CARAGA, Davao Oriental—For 128 years, the stone and wooden church of San Salvador del Mundo near a promontory facing the Pacific Ocean has stood as a sentinel against intruders from the sea and a beacon of hope.

The old mission station built by Recollect priests during the 19th century held its ground against Typhoon “Pablo,” surprising residents.

Buildings around it crumbled in the face of monster winds gusting up to 200 kilometers per hour as the howler swept across Mindanao on Dec. 4 last year, flattening communities and plantations and leaving over 1,000 dead, 800 missing and tens of thousands homeless.

“Most people consider it a miracle,” said Caraga parish priest Uldarico Turoba.

“The church is very close to the shore; it is located along the coast but except for some of its GI (galvanized iron) sheets that were blown off, it practically survived almost unscathed the strongest storm to visit Mindanao,” Turoba said, glancing at the wrecked dome of the St. Mary’s College building across the street.

Regarded as the oldest surviving stone church in Mindanao, the edifice was built in 1884. It used to serve as Spain’s first mission station in Mindanao.

Nat’l historical site

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared the church a national historical site on July 16 last year, Caraga town’s fiesta, giving it the iconic stature of such recently recognized landmarks as Camp Crame in Quezon City, the Schoolhouse of the Women of Malolos and the Gomburza execution site, among many others.

Ludovico Badoy, the commission’s executive director, has said that the church is significant not only for Davao Oriental but also for the whole country because this is where “Christianity began” in this part of the Philippines.”

The insignia on its main door bears the symbol of Christ and dates back to the church’s foundation.

From where it stood a few paces away from the promontory, the church, as the townspeople like to believe, strategically guarded the town against intruders.

Among the old artifacts that the church still holds are a church bell dating back to 1802, two gigantic seashells more than a hundred years old serving as holy water font for churchgoers, an antique baptismal basin near the entrance and an ancient statue of San Isidro Labrador.

TOPLESS In front of the old stone and wooden church is the St. Mary’s College building, which lost its dome as the typhoon blew into town. NICO ALCONABA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

Minor damage

But Turoba said the church was not totally spared from the typhoon. He admitted having soldered back at least 38 pieces of GI sheets to its roofing after they were damaged by the wind.

“But unlike its surrounding structures, the Caraga church underwent only a minor damage,” he said, noting that the old GI sheets used by the church were sturdier compared to those in the market now, which could have explained the relatively minor damage to its roofing.

“This can only mean that our church is strong, it has been with us for a long time, it had withstood the test of time; now it has survived the strongest typhoon to have hit Mindanao,” Turoba said.

“I can’t even say the typhoon’s effect was minimal because in some areas, coconut trees were uprooted, the roofs of houses were ripped off,” he said.

He said that like everything else, the recent typhoon brought an important message to the people. “And the message is that we should take care of the environment and that we should strengthen our faith, just as the church of Caraga has withstood the test of time.”

Originally posted: 9:49 pm | Sunday, January 6th, 2013

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  • jose

    It is not a Divine Miracle but a “Miracle of Engineering”. These old churces were built from solid stones and were designed to double as forts having a high degree of resistance to canon fire of that era. These old churches have two purpose 1) Primarily as a place of worship, and 2) to protect the people of the town againts Moro and foreign raiders in the past


      Lucky are those who have wisdom enough to take shelter in ancient church. They believe in Gods salvation.

      • Loggnat

        They also are not blind and can clearly see that the old churches were better built to withstand the forces of storms, typhoons and the devil. :).

      • Vladymir

        Even the devil will take shelter in a safe and sturdy building like that church if the howler is as strong as that one.

      • buttones

        Even an atheist would take shelter in a stone built church that has stood the test of time—

      • ARIKUTIK

        Bakit meron siyang 3 LIKES. Ang post ko na may Poetic rhym in message ay ‘0’ Like, ang daya …. waaaahhhhhh…… maka tulog na nga lang ….. good nightttttt …. byeee… weeeeeeeee >>>>>>>>> ???

      • Allan

        saving yourself does not need any religion.

      • buttones

        Exactly…that instinct of self preservation, is older than any religion you can mention, it’s primordial ……
        My first comments about this were pointing out the advantages of good design, good materials, good workmanship- something built for the purpose it was intended, bit like the three little pigs really, house of straw, one of wood and one of brick….

    • mon key

      there were no Moro raiders in this side of Mindanao. what the galleon crew members feared were the Mandaya ladies who were beautiful enough to convince them to come ashore and not go back to their boats anymore. losing the prospect of ever going back home from where they came. this church has 17th century baptismal and death records written on lambskin.

      • AlexanderAmproz

        The traditional material is normally goatskin, lambskin will not last.

      • mon key

        may Tama ka AlexanderAmproz. . . pag nagkita tayo sa bar, may isang Red Horse Beer ka galing sa akin!

      • Vladymir

        There are no lambs in that part of the planet,only goats.

      • mon key

        may TAMA ka talaga! Red Horse Extra Strong Beer para sa ‘yo pare ko!

      • Vladymir

        libreng advert yan parekoy ah,anyways di ko iniinom ang red horse extra,sabaw ko yan sa pulutan,kita tayo sa dhusit thani,ako taya. 

    • Yxon

      just compare the engineering between the St. Mary’s building (in the picture) and the church.  also take note of the wood material for the top portion  of the church

  • band1do

    I agree with Jose.  But I might add that it’s also to do with the quality of workmanship?  Looking around modern Manila, it gets me puzzled as to how people (Including some of the houses I’ve been to in Forbes) love having everything made with cement and hollow blocks.  Their answer is the typhoons.  I live in a country also familiar with strong typhons and our houses are rarely made out of hollow blocks.  In addition, they’ve invented a thing called ‘adhesive gap sealer’ which can be used in substitution for cement when applying to sinks, etc.

  • anu12345

    Saving one self while letting others victimized is not a miracle.

  • sl1

    It is not a miracle it is just so happen that the structure of the church is stronger than the rest of houses and buildings in the vicinity. But likewise this will remind us that we must always follow the pathways of God to survive any eventualities and not always thinking of making money at the expense of our environment like those that’s being done by our corrupt politicians.

  • Karabkatab

    This is also true to stone bridges constructed during the spanish era.  Many of these bridges are still existing in the national highways, while many of the so called modern steel bridges funded by PDAF were all swept by not so strong floods.  Napapahiya ang ating modern engineering dito, o baka naman masyado malaki tapyas sa project kaya sacrified ang quality ng infra.

  • lapasan

    Wait a minute, I’m confused. I thought that Caraga is a region in Mindanao comprising of Agusan del Norte, Sur, Surigao del Norte etc. I didn’t know that there is a Caraga town in Davao Oriental. If not for this article I would not have known that there is one.

    • Albin

      There is a town of same name talaga.

    • batangpaslit

      Bro, may na meet ka bang tao na ang apeyedo nia ay DIMAKAUPO, pero ang first name nia ay Celia?
      there is also this military officer whose surname is Coronel, and his rank is Colonel?
      the police have rank of superintendent, but there is aso a position of superintendent

    • poltergeist_fuhrer

      masbate city is the capital of the province of masbate

    • poltergeist_fuhrer

      cebu city, cebu…

    • prince_janus

       sana di ka nalang nag-post. ikaw ay isang dakilang T_N_A. fill in the blanks.

    • ed_dAVAO

      Caraga, Davao Oriental is the oldest town in Mindanao,  The Caraga region now was part of Caraga before. Caraga, Davao Oriental is the Original. Proof is its church. The Church of Caraga has lots of stories that save the town especially during the Japanese Regime. This church accdg, to our olds, was burned by the Japanese during their occupation but survived. This church survived too the last supertyphoon on 1912.

  • Danilo Mariano

    “Most people consider it a miracle,” said Caraga parish priest Uldarico Turoba.

    Ehem, Father. Maybe a miracle but also very sad. A standing structure amid a sea of dead bodies. How ironic can you get?

    • Albin

      “Most people” ang may sabi, hindi si Fr Turoba. Sa kanila ka mag reklamo. 

      • jasper627

        Oo nga naman Danilo Mariano mga tao doon nagsabi na its a miracle, di si Fr. Turoba. So “Ehem” mo sarili mo..

      • Vladymir

        Gullible ,that’s what i call people who believe whatever the church says,The building was built on solid ground and materials,not of flimsy plywood or galvanized sheets,get real folks and think in logical way.

  • xrisp

    Totoong hinahayan ng Diyos na subukan tayong mga anak nya dahil yan ay paraan upang mapatunayan ng tao kung gaano siya nagtititwala sa Diyos sa gitna ng lahat ng pagsubok katulad ni Job. Depende na sa tao kung papaano nya binibigyan nang kahulugan ang mga nangyayari sa kapaligiran nya. Ang pangyayaring ito ay isa lamang sa mga maraming kamanghamanghang pangyayari at nagbalik sa isipan ko ang nangyari sa nuclear bombing sa Hiroshima noong WWII kung saan milagrosong nakaligtas ang ilang tao na dapat ay sila ay tinunaw na ng bombang atomika na iyon. Diyos lamang ang makakagawa ng pagliligtas na yaon, wala ng iba!

  • Albin

    Hail to the 19th century engineering.

    • buttones

      Exactly right- and I think it is fair to say we can take your calendar back to even before the time of Christ! Can’t do it now, we don’t have the skills nor the money…..

  • Pepe Alas

    Structures during the Philippines’ Spanish past were really built to last. Compare them to today’s structure, built merely for profit.

  • buttones

    This has nothing to do with ‘miracles’- it is a case of a building having been built serve a purpose for hundreds of years, good design, appropriate materials used, maintenance and excellent engineering skills- that’s the reason it survived and has done for so many years. Many of the buildings we erect today are not designed to last one hundred and fifty years or more, just look around at the ‘balance sheet’ sort of architecture that is being thrown up now, it’s atheistically irritating and probably of questionable engineering…..

    • batangpaslit


  • batangpaslit

    if the structure is build sturdy, the materials are of the best available materials the building could withstand strong winds
    it would be miraculous if the church building is made of light materials that when the storm hit the area, the concrete builduings got blown away but the church building was able to withstand it.

  • poltergeist_fuhrer

    past engineering is much better than now…

    despite the fact that we are more advanced (RAW)

  • AlexanderAmproz

    Should be super gullible to believed a well built building is a “miracle”.

    In case of Miracle, every Spanish time building is and where Miracles.

    The real Miracle for the Spanish time buildings left is to have escaped peoples greed, ignorances and stupidity, for those buildings left, Typhoons, Earthquakes are just an ordinary way of life, as long no wars, landslides, volcano’s eruptions, floods loaded with logs and stones, or human developments activities.
    Built with termites free wood, well maintain and control  those buildings can almost last for ever, this not a Miracle but precautions result.

    Corrals stones buildings are in great danger by the ignorant use of cement corroding dramatically for ever the corral, only chalk cement should be used. Cebu Basilica and many other churches and convents where vandalized on that way.
    Its one of the consequences from a Clergy better skilled for money and politics than History relics protections.
    Since Marcos time, about Churches all around the country, almost every single religious pieces of art have been stollen by insiders Job to be sold to middleman’s organizing the robbery.

  • ed_dAVAO

    This Church was built using large stones chipped neatly accdg to its planned structure. It has no metal reinforcement but pure stone. Other materials were first class hardwoods that even our present nails will refuse to penetrate. Not even the termites would dare.Today it’s still the original structure.

  • Kokak

    Concrete structures, old or new, are not known to be easily destroyed by typhoons. Im sure a lot of concrete houses in the area also withstood the ordeal.

  • bugoybanggers

    Naku po, may balita yung palang lote na pinag tirikan ng lumang simbahan na iyan ay nabili na pala ni Pastor Manalo ng INC. Pinapa demolish na pala ang simbahan na iyan dahil diyan din itatayo ang bagong HIGANTENG STORM PROOF (Saved by GOD) KAPILYA ng INC. Kaya demolisyon palan ang katapusan ng simbahan na iyan.. pasensya na lang kasi kailangan ng pera ang SIMBAHAN para mapag bigyan ang hiling ng mga KULTO na patayuan ng bahay ang mga KATOLIKOng nasalanta ng bagyo (na ibabahay bahay nila).

    • nice_boy

       Kung totoon National Historical site ang simbahang yan.  Hindi yan pweding gibain.

      • tagatabas

         sumakay ka na naman sa trip ni bugoy

      • bugoybanggers

        Talaga naman boy.. alam ko ang amats ng mga INC. Kung saan ang Simbahang Katoliko doon din sila tatapat. At mas palalakihan pa nila. Mag bayan bayan ka naman para malaman mo. Mag pakatotoo ka, nag iikot ako Boy sa buong PILIPINAS. Ako si Ibong adarna.. hahahaha.

  • jeray

    dami nyong satsat…. Daming magagaling! Kayo na ang miracle…

    • tabingbakod

      WTF, galit ka sa mga taong may opinion dahil ikaw wala. This is the comment section, of course they will post their opinion, comment section nga eh.

      Babassahin mo yung comments pagkatapos magrereklamo ka may strong opinion ang mga tao- ano tawag dun- kagaguhan.

      Kung ayaw mong mag-isip ang mga tao, lumipat ka sa China o Syria o Russia, o kaya sumali ka sa kulto.

  • Allan

    the chruch was built according to specifications. wala pang dpwh noon at wala pa ring corrupt na pulitiko. that’s the miracle. need we say more?

  • Allan

    more… ang mga simbahan, matibay kasi pera ng tao ang ginamit. kung pera ng mga pari yan, magtitipid din sila.

  • tabingbakod

    It is not a miracle that heavy stone part of the Church survived the storm while the galvanized sheets was torn off by the wind. It’s physics.

    It is not even that old compared to other churches in the country. The very first churches the spanish built were either destroyed by fire or earthquake but they were smart enough to learn from their mistakes and adapt better techniques that suits the country. So there is that element of human ingenuity rather divine intervention.

    These impressive buildings are built to be impressive. The Church is in the business to inspire and influence people. That is why the INC and the mormons have their own grand architecture. It is the power of design.

    I said it before, our schools deserve the same amount attention if not more. Aside from their main purpose of education, they also act as refuge for evacuees and voting precints. Local schools could offer library service to the public as well as recreational facilities. Their design should be to survive the worst that elements can throw at it and its architecture should reflect our values and commitment to children, education, knowledge and the well being of the people.

    • AlexanderAmproz

      Arroyo trick was acacias schools, clean corruption, no school at all….

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